My religious affiliation has always been rather mixed, at best...and non-existent, at worst. Well, not really "at worst", but it's been a very off-and-on or on-and-off relationship. My first recollection of being an active worshipper was my first visit to a temple. My first memories of such a visit seem to be to the temple in Tellicherry, my hometown. As a child, which is not to say that I'm much more grown up now, religion for me was a set of rituals and practices. Of course, some of them are quite necessary, you know, like being respectful in the temple, and understanding that the reason you don't wear footwear or a shirt (the shirt thing is mostly in South India) inside the temple is to show respect and humility before God. This 'early phase' as I like to call it was more a sort of someone telling me what to do, and me following it with blind reverence...alright, maybe 'reverence' is a bit strong...faith, I suppose. Then came the 'boarding school phase', and KIS being a "Christian Multi-cultural School" meant that the values instilled were more in line with the Christian faith. No problems there, but I do remember people occasionally making a comment about how I was "slowly becoming Christian" if I expressed a desire to not go to the temple on a particular day. And so for about half my life, I always thought of God (The Father, as in Christianity) on the one hand and the Gods (as in those in Hinduism) on the other. A bit difficult conceptually, but not so difficult if you remember the fact that when you walk into a church/chapel then you make the sign of the cross, whereas in a temple you remember to touch your forehead and heart in quick succession (several variations of this I'm afraid). And so it continued...I would occasionally find myself distanced from God, and then there would be a period of staunch worship and an attempt at coming back...but the 'ritualistic' practice continued.
Now that I think about it, and because I've attempted to understand the function of religion in our lives I find that my thinking is a little conflicted. I don't mean to say that I'm not a believer at the moment, in fact now I make it a point to say a prayer whenever something goes well or whenever something goes wrong...and more about the prayers later. But here's what I've come to realize about the role of religion in my life, and possibly in the lives of others too. Faith. That's what it all boils down to. It's the belief that an individual carries about the sense of something more powerful out there; something that may be responsible for our existence, and something that we identify has a role to play in our lives as we live from one day to the next. Now, the reason that I refer to this as 'something' rather than someone is because I'm looking at 'it' as a power; a force...possibly one which has no characteristics or exists in dimensions that we are incapable of imagining and comprehending. The moment we personify this power it becomes a matter of contention. We begin to ascribe values to this power, and think of ways to worship this power. It is these ways that define a group of people, as they become religious practices that are characteristic to a particular group of people. Different groups of people create/adopt/adapt different ways of worshipping the different perceptions of this 'power' that they have. Most of the time there is no reason for any of these different groups to come into conflict with each other. But, we see that this isn't always the case...and our world is wracked by religious conflict. My point is, however, that it's the same power that we all believe in. Yet we use it as a basis and foundation to cause harm and deal out death to others like us. How is that possible? One of the main messages in most of the world religions is that of love. Yet, most of the world tends to operate on hate and injustice. And so, as I thought about it, and still continue to think about it, I realize. I realize that I am the one who has to make a change in myself...I have to be the one to be able to do the things that I feel are right, so that others can look at me and see me as an example. And not just me. Every single person out there should try and relook at what things in her/his life cause pain, both to themselves and to others, and then find a way to minimize it...and eventually eliminate it.
That is religion for me at the moment. This is where I am in my relationship with God...or the 'power' that I never really stopped believing in. It has always been there with me. Sometimes it had a face and a form, and at other times it was more a shadow...watching over me but not letting its presence be felt. Who is God? To me, he is a friend, an all-knowing being, a guide, an authority figure, etc. But God is this to other people too. And the moment we realize that we are all praying to the same power/God/being/etc. the sooner we'll see that we are all the same. Idealistic perhaps, but not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. It is a complicated thing religion, yet it's the easiest thing for a person to start believing in. How interesting and yet how obviously simple.
Please, anyone, let me know your views about what I've said or what your views are on this topic.
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